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6 Cheapest Countries to Travel in South America

7 min read
6 Cheapest Countries to Travel in South America

Traveling does not always have to cost an arm and leg. While it certainly doesn’t come cheap all of the time, it’s possible to travel on a budget and still experience incredible places.

Obviously, you wouldn’t head to London, Singapore, or New York City and expect it to be cheap. These are some of the most expensive cities in the world — and for good reason.

But when it comes to countries in South America, several places offer great value for money. While trying to get the most out of your dollars, euros, or pounds may seem like a challenge, some countries in South America offer a particularly good deal.

Whether you want to see Machu Picchu, go island hopping off the coast of Colombia, or explore the mountain ranges of Patagonia, you will be able to do so without breaking the bank.

Here are six of the cheapest countries to travel in South America:

6 Cheapest Countries to Travel in South America

1. Bolivia

Bolivia is often one of the first countries that people think of when considering their budget for a trip to South America. Bolivia has the lowest cost of living in all of South America, making it an obvious choice for budget-savvy travelers.

From airfare to accommodation and food, everything is relatively inexpensive in Bolivia. And while some may be hesitant to visit this country due to safety concerns, the truth is that there are plenty of safe and enjoyable places to visit in Bolivia.

Many tourists come to see and experience the surreal salt flats or bike down death road. And, with a number of tour companies offering affordable tours and activities, it’s easy to get the most out of your experience in Bolivia without breaking the bank.

Even just experiencing the city of La Paz or walking the endless market stalls brimming with colorful textiles, you will have no shortage of things to see and do in this fascinating nation. With dorm beds as low as $8 a night and less than $15 a day on food and drink, you can spend weeks here without breaking the bank.

With so many people looking for affordable and safe options to see the world, Bolivia is an ideal destination for travelers on a budget. However, one thing to keep in mind when considering your budget for Bolivia, American tourists will need to apply for a $180 visa which is a pretty hefty price to pay when traveling on a budget.

2. Ecuador

Often overlooked by tourists visiting South America, Ecuador is a great option for travelers looking to explore without spending a fortune. Even though it’s a small nation, Ecuador boasts picturesque coastal towns and colonial cities that will leave you wanting more.

A few years ago the currency in Ecuador crashed and the nation switched over to the US dollar as the official currency. In the beginning, this caused some problems for locals, but now it has helped Ecuador thrive as a nation, both internally and with tourism.

For the traveler, this means that everything from food and transportation to accommodation is both safe and inexpensive. It’s possible to find dorm beds for as little as $6 a night in some parts of Ecuador and a menu del dia can be as low as $2.50.

But there is more to traveling than just sleeping, eating, and drinking…

One of the main reasons people travel to Ecuador is to fly to the Galapagos Islands, known for their unique wildlife and incredible snorkeling opportunities. But be warned, the cost of doing so can be quite expensive and if it is not in your budget, don’t fret, there is so much more to do in this incredible country for a smaller price tag.

In Ecuador you can hike volcanoes, swing from bridges, even go white water rafting and all of these activities range from $5-$25 per day. It is a no-brainer that Ecuador should be high on your list of South American countries to visit.

3. Colombia

What was once the most dangerous country in South America is now the most thriving. With its vibrant capital city, national parks, and beautiful beaches, Colombia has become one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the region.

And to top it all off, Colombians are some of the most welcoming people in all of South America. Whether you’re hitting up a salsa club or sipping on coffee in Salento, you’re sure to feel welcome in Colombia.

As for pricing, it really depends on what city you are in but there are always budget options anywhere you go in Colombia. You can easily travel on $30 a day in any part of the country, and that includes accommodation, food, attractions, and transportation.

Another great perk of traveling to Colombia is the fact that it’s very easy to buy cheap flights within the country or even doing a quick stopover in Bogota on your way to another country. This makes trying out different parts of Colombia super easy and affordable if you only have a limited amount of time.

4. Peru

From the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu to the colorful markets in Cusco, Peru is one of the most popular destinations in all of South America. You could easily spend 2 months here and still not see and do everything, and lucky for you it is affordable enough that you actually could spend a couple of months here!

Accommodation, transportation, food and attractions are all relatively cheap in Peru. You can easily find budget dorm rooms for less than $10 a night and menu del dias everywhere for $3. 

Plus, with so many free activities available like hiking, sightseeing, and even exploring the amazing markets in Cusco, Peru is a great option for budget travelers.

It is important to know that while it is easy to live cheaply in Peru it can also be quite expensive due to all of the major tourist attractions you can do here. From the Amazonas, to hiking Rainbow Mountain, and sandboarding in the desert, your spending can easily rise if you aren’t careful. 

But, it is all about perspective. You are getting to experience some of the most amazing and unique landscapes on earth and at a fraction of the cost you would in the western world.

Also thankfully, your daily spending budget will revolve around how much you want to do and see in Peru, so all it takes is a little bit of planning to make sure you don’t go over your budget.

5. Argentina

Despite being one of the more expensive countries in South America, Argentina is still a great option for budget travelers.

With beautiful cities like Mendoza and Salta that boast some of the best wine and food in all of South America, it’s easy to see why so many people visit this country. Not only can you enjoy wine tastings and food tours, but you can also visit Buenos Aires for some of the best nightlife in all of South America.

The daily average cost of living in Buenos Aires is $47 and most of that is accommodation and transportation.

This is because most things in Argentina are lower prices than the western world but higher than its neighboring countries, so while there are budget options in almost every city, you should expect to pay more than you would if you were traveling to Bolivia or Colombia.

Despite the price tag, however, Argentina is still a great choice for budget travelers who want to explore one of the most beautiful and vibrant countries in South America. Many of the activities you will participate in are budget-friendly or even free like hiking in the national parks and exploring the city, so with a little bit of planning you can make sure your trip to Argentina is affordable but still unforgettable.

6. Paraguay

Paraguay? Huh? Where is Paraguay?

If you’ve never heard of this country, don’t worry, most people haven’t. But despite being lesser-known and less traveled than its neighbors in South America, Paraguay is one of the cheapest countries to travel in all of South America.

Landlocked Paraguay is often overlooked as a great travel destination in South America. But what many may not know is that this country has so much to offer at an affordable price.

For instance, the capital city of Asuncion boasts beautiful colonial architecture and delicious food. Plus, once you get outside of the city there are tons of budget-friendly activities like exploring the national parks, visiting local markets, and even going hiking on one of the many trails in Paraguay.

Tourist attractions tend to be one of the biggest money drains when traveling and you won’t find too many here, so in Paraguay you will be able to get away with living like a local, which is a great way to save money and make your trip both easier and more enjoyable.

The biggest perk of traveling to Paraguay is that it is significantly cheaper than most of its neighbors. You can easily find accommodation for less than $10 a night and grab authentic meals at restaurants around town for under $3.

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